Morality Not Salvation
Many times after preaching along the lines and upon the subjects contained in the foregoing chapters have we had persons come to us and say, “But I am not so bad; I have never gone deep into sin, and wicked habits; I have done nothing vile.” And to all saying thus, we have replied, “One does not need to be a harlot or a drunkard or commit some crime in order to become a sinner.”
Every member of the human family is born a sinner; that is, as a result of the fall from purity and holiness by our first parents back in Eden, we have been brought into this life with a principle or “bent to sinning” in our natures that causes us, one and all, to sin. Paul wrote, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) And again, “I am carnal, sold under sin.” (Rom. 7:14) In I John 1:10 we read, “If we say we have not sinned, we make Him (God) a liar.” To sin is to knowingly do anything that is wrong or contrary to the will of God. To be “saved from sin” is to be pardoned of the wrongs we have committed and to have our hearts cleansed from that inward principle that caused us to do the wrong. One does not need to become a criminal in order to be a sinner. The Bible teaches that all are sinners, but it also teaches that all may be saved both from the committing of sins and from the presence and power of the “sin that dwells within us.”
One may be very moral, so far as his actions are concerned: a person does not need to become a harlot or thief, for sin is sin no matter where it is found; and what may be termed little things that men and women do that are wrong in God’s sight are sins for which they will need to be pardoned; and one and all must go to Him for the cleansing of the inbred sin out of the heart before they are fully prepared to stand in His presence. Let us give you an illustration of this.
Some years ago we were conducting services in a large hall which was crowded at every service. While we had not been in that town that length of time, yet during the preceding eight months we had never closed a Sunday night service without having seekers at the altar seeking God. The meeting on this particular Sunday night was hard. There seemed to settle down over the meeting a cold, dead feeling, and try as we would, we could not break through. We spoke but a few minutes and went to prayer, urging a number to go out in the audience to seek for those under conviction. They were gone but a very short time and returned saying they had no liberty and could do nothing. We arose to close the meeting, when the brother who attended the door came up, saying there was a young man near the door under conviction and if we would go and speak to him he thought he would come forward. We went back and on the end of the rear seat next to the aisle found a fine young fellow who seemed to be very much interested. We asked him if he was ready to meet God. He replied that he guessed he was all right, but we put the same question a second time, “Are you good enough to meet God?
He sat for a few moments and then said, “I do not belong to the class that you generally call sinners. That is, I have no bad habits. I do not know the taste of either liquor or tobacco. I have never sworn an oath in my life, and do not know one card from another. I have never attended a dance or a theater, nor bet or gambled in any way; and so far as I can recollect, I have never told my mother a falsehood. I cannot remember when I started to attend Sabbath School, for I have been doing so since I was a child. But the lessons I have learned from the Bible teach me that all must be born again. I never have been converted or experienced any change of heart, and I am fully conscious that I am not prepared to meet God.”
There he sat, just entering the prime of his young manhood, and he had given us a testimony the equal of which we had never heard from human lips. Kneeling down by his side, we begged him to go to the altar and get right with God. He sat looking up the aisle and finally arose lowly. We sprang up for we thought he was going. He stepped out into the aisle and halted, still looking toward the altar. At last he turned and extending his hand, said,
“No, I will not go tonight, but next Sunday night, if I am alive, I will come. You do not need to send anyone to talk with me or come down after me, for if I am alive, I’ll come.”
We caught at the words “if I am alive,” and said, “But you may not be alive. This may be the last opportunity you may ever have.”
“Oh, I think not,” he said; “look at me; I do not know what it means to be sick. I’ll be on hand.”
“But,” we replied, “many things may happen between now and a week from tonight.”
“Oh, I’ll risk it,” he said, and as he walked out of the door he looked back and very courteously said, “Good night.”
There was a wave of sorrow swept over us that we could not control. On returning to the platform, we closed the meeting at once and cried all the way home, and spent the night on our knees. We never want to spend another night as we spent that one; we do not mean that we do not wish to spend another night on our knees, but we mean have the same condition of mind. It seemed that we had some soul just on the verge of entering the kingdom when it slipped from our grasp and went over the precipice down into the depths of eternal despair, and all night long it seemed we could hear the cry coming up from the regions of woe, “Lost! Lost! Lost!”
Monday night came, but he was not there; Tuesday night, but he did not show up. Wednesday morning, just before daylight, as the night watchman passed up the side street, hearing some one groaning, he turned down the alley, and just outside the rear of that hall, hardly twenty feet from where we had stood and plead on that Sunday night, he found our young friend lying unconscious with a hole in the top of his head as though something the shape of an egg had hit him, smashing the skull and brains down into the head. He never regained consciousness, but took lockjaw and died that day.
About eighteen years have passed by, and still it remains a mystery how he happened to be in that alley that night, and who or what it was that killed him.
The following Sunday night came. Can the reader imagine what was the state of our feelings when we arose to face that large audience? Yes, the large hall was again crowded to the doors, and a hundred people were present who knew God and were ready to pray for anyone asking for prayer. We had the same Bible to read from, and the same Jesus to hold up, and the same story of redemption to tell. But our young friend, where was he? His body lay out in that silent city of the dead, and his soul, with the consciousness that he was not prepared, had gone to stand before God. He was a moral man. We have never heard a testimony since like he gave us that night. We have no doubt of the sincerity of his word. We told it in that town and no one ever gave us the slightest hint that anything he had said to us was not true. But behind and below all his splendid manhood, his open frankness and almost unparalleled morality, lay the consciousness that he neither “walked with God” nor was ready to meet God.
If you are not ready at this very moment to step into His presence, that is positive proof that you are not walking with Him, and that your heart is not perfect in His sight. If your heart was perfect you could do as Hezekiah did, when, with the shades of death creeping close about him, he said, “O Lord, remember how I have walked before Thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which was right in Thy sight.”
Your morality is not the salvation that Jesus came, suffered, bled and died that you might live. If it was, then no need for Jesus to come and die; but in your lost and helpless condition He came to destroy tie work of the devil and to save your from all sin. Let Him do so, and He will come and, taking up His abode in your heart, will walk with you. When others turn away, He will be by your side; when cruel and unkind words are spoken about you, He will whisper to your heart messages of love and tenderness; when sorrow and sadness gather about you, He will be there to cheer you with His presence; when death stalks into your circle and robs you of loved ones, He will be present to comfort your sorrowing heart And if you will walk with Him here, when you cross the cold waters of the grave, He will not forsake you, but with His everlasting arms about you will lift you up and out of its chilly stream, and bear you away to the city of gold, and there among the redeemed you can bask in the splendor of His presence and forever and forever walk before God
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PART II — ABRAHAM THE MAN WHO OBEYED GOD
Scripture Lesson — “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect. And I will make My covenant between Me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for Me, behold, My covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.” (Gen. 17:1-6)
“I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect.” (Gen. 17:1)